The average NFL player weighed 245 pounds in 2003, the average weight rose 10% in 2007. Being obese/overweight is a well known risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and stroke. In 2005, San Francisco 49er Thomas Herrion collapsed and died of a heart attack during a game at the age of 23. He weighed 320 pounds at the time of his death. High school and college coaches are looking for young men and kids who are overweight to become linemen. What message are we sending to these young men??
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (May 2009) reports that NFL players are not at a greater risk for heart disease compared to the general population. The study found that even though NFL players weighed an average of 64 pounds more than a sample of healthy young men they had better blood sugar levels and comparable cholesterol levels. The NFL players did however have a higher incidence of high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a strong risk factor for stroke and heart attacks. The researchers state that fitness and consistent exercise may be helping to protect these overweight men. There are other studies that have stressed the importance of regular exercise for overweight and obese adults.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 1994 that retired offensive and defensive linemen had a 52% greater risk of dying from heart disease. These players typically weigh over 300 pounds. So what is the true risk?? Are overweight/obese men who exercise on a regular basis at an increased risk for heart problems? This clearly needs to be studied further, especially looking at the increased incidence of high blood pressure in these players even with routine exercise. But also this study stresses the benefits of daily exercise to help protect overweight men from heart problems.